So, we’re on our own in this self-publishing game. None of us are millionaires and we don’t have a team of graphic designers on hand to create something beautiful, but that is exactly what we need to do. The cover is the most important part of the book, the phrase, ‘you can’t judge a book by it’s cover’ is absolute tosh. It’s the one image that will be seen on all of your marketing and it needs to convey so much more than just being a nice picture.
We need to know some basic tips that can at least give us a head start when thinking about designing our covers. I’m fortunate that I happened to befriend a short kid with big ears when I was five and it just so happened that he grew up to be able to draw quite well. We’re now going to go off and make each other famous but we still spent some time going through this process with each other first.
Thank you to Humble Nations for sharing these tips, please check their site out for a real professional that knows what he’s doing.
The Four Basics
- It needs to be able to STAND OUT
- It should SET THE MOOD of the book
- If part of a series it should ESTABLISH THE BRAND
- Be of a HIGH-LEVEL of QUALITY to prove that the writing is of the same
You must remember these four points and also accept that being a good writer does not necessarily mean that you’re a good artist as well, so outsource the doing of it to somebody that knows what they’re doing. My drawing ability has never developed since I was about 12, and I wasn’t very good then.
First of all don’t put a photo on the cover giving away the central piece of action in the story and don’t put an obvious photo of a main character either. If you use photos (and if you don’t have a hobbit-sized best friend that can illustrate then I suggest you do) then pick an abstract image that sets the mood of your book and a vague theme without giving the game away.
Another tip is not to put one image on top of another to make up some artistic collage. The lighting, focus and all of that stuff will be different for each one. Your book will look like a mis-mash of styles and therefore amateur.
My books will largely be sold in the humour genre and this genre is filled with book covers that are drawn rather than shot. As explained, my drawing is woeful and you must never attempt to draw something yourself, or by another amateur, because that is exactly what it will look like… amateur. If the genre you are writing for demands an illustration then you’re going to have to find someone that can do it properly.
Use contrasting colours that stand out and try not to use too many, the simpler the better. Experiment with what works best, look at other books in your genre for ideas and expect to mess around with the main colours until you find something that feels right.
Design looks best when the central image has space to breathe. You don’t have to fill your canvas with a picture just because it’s there. It’ll look cluttered and messy rather than slick, cool, and more importantly professional.
Use standard fonts rather than some special looking thing that can’t be read when it’s a thumbnail. The design has to be functional as well as look good.
Some books work very well when it is just the title and the authors name and that’s it. Contrasting colours on a plain coloured background can be very effective and depending on the type of book it is it can actually enhance it. Non-fiction especially looks great when it simply says what it is.
Let’s be honest, you’re not going to sell many books because of who you are. People will buy your book if it looks interesting etc, no one knows you so don’t put your name in massive letters across the top. It uses up space and it makes you look like a diva. Play it cool and take the backseat.
Look At The Genre
You should always look at the unofficial code for what’s expected from books in your genre. If you’re the king of your particular genre and people will queue around the corner for your next instalment then maybe you have the power to change that code, but you’re not. Look like you belong on those shelves not some freak with red hair that’s trying desperately to prove that they’re different from everybody else.
Get A Man In
If all else fails pay a professional to do it properly. Remember this is probably the most important part of your book. More judgements will be made in the first second by people looking at your cover than anything else. Get it right.
I hope these tips help, let me know if you have any other good points to consider?